Let's get the kids back to school
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 15:29

 

Of course, all of you know that my primary passion is educating people, especially young adults on financial literacy.  Right now though, the situation in B.C. is more dire than that.  We need to get the kids back to school in September.

September is just around the corner and as absurd as it seems, it is likely that B.C. students will not have a school to go to. Teachers and support workers will be missing mortgage payments and trying to make ends meet. Parents will be scrambling to figure out child care options or re-arranging work schedules. The omnipotent B.C. government has been enjoying their summer vacation but did manage to figure out a “solution” to pay families to NOT educate their kids.

If it wasn’t so absurd, it would be laughable. The whole situation reminds me of kids fighting in the sandbox at recess. The teachers union and the government are apparently so far apart that even mediators are not willing to take on the job.

Full disclosure: I am anti-union for the most part. However, I believe that to maintain a strong public school system (as well as a public health system), they are a necessary evil – which keeps everyone honest and transparent. The good news is that the two parties are only 1% apart on wages. The real issues to be fought out include benefits and class sizes. Unlike non-reunion workers who appeal to their boss for a raise or increase in benefits/holidays in private, the teachers union has to negotiate for a raise, benefits and class size in the public eye.

One of the other reasons I’m not partial to unions is the acrimonious system that is perpetrates. Each side must go in to negotiations with ridiculous demands such as $3,000 worth of massages per year for teachers, and no reduction at all in class sizes on the part of government. This is just a game that gets played out at the expense of students, parents and teachers. The government and the BCTF union management still receive their pay cheques. To make matters worse, the media grabs on to the most contentious issues and the general public simply roll their eyes and say “teachers are so greedy – must be nice to only work 10 months of the year – wouldn’t I love to get $3,000 worth of massages every year”.

Because we are all so busy, many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to learn the actual facts. How many of us know that it was the government who locked out the teachers in the first place? Do we realize that the issue in no longer about wages? Do we not recognize if the teachers were really just greedy they would be working for the government? Don’t even get me started on that. I don’t claim to know all the facts – how could I when the whole subject is confused with rhetoric?

The real issue that has sparked my outrage is the bribe that the government is now offering B.C. families. They will be paying $40 per day for every child under 13. Is this to encourage a move to private school? This would ultimately save the B.C. government a ton of money. We could have all the haves move to private school and only the have-nots would remain in public school. This would be a sad day for Canada.

How much money will it cost to set up such a payment system (think GST/HST)? The taxpayers will be funding this administration as well as the pay outs. Will teachers get paid to keep their kids from being educated, while they are not being paid to educate kids? Will parents pay tax on this money that they are being paid from their own tax dollars? How do you spell irony?

Why is the cut off age 13? Does that mean that anyone over 13 doesn’t need any kind of supervision with schools closed and nothing to do but hang out together? What about kids with special needs?

The reason given for this bribe is to pay for daycare. What day-care??? Where are the imaginary thousands of spaces going to magically appear from? How are parents going to organize this when everything is so up in the air and we all have this false sense of security that everything will be sorted out before school starts?

What about the parents that are not as resourceful as others? What about the new Canadians that may not have an extended family support system? How will they source out care for their kids?

I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that education is an essential service. This may be a naive solution, but is it not possible to legislate the teachers back to work and then continue to negotiate the contract in good faith on both sides? The government claims they want to break the cycle of legislating teachers back – but at whose expense? How can we support our government in trying to starve out the teachers and support workers while denying kids their education?

Right now the kids are losing out big-time. Don’t we owe them the opportunity to be educated? The parents are counting on school and have planned their life/work/day care around this. The teachers and support workers are losing out on their paycheque to protect the integrity of class sizes and get help for those who need it. Canada is a first world country that respects and honors every child’s right to an education regardless of race, financial ability, or physical/mental ability. Are we willing to give this up?

In an ideal world, this dispute could be worked out prior to the school system starting in a few short weeks. My hope is that every family will speak up, refuse the bribe and insist on a settlement. If all else fails and this cannot be accomplished by the start of school, legislate the teachers back to work (so they can pay their bills) and then work out a contract with a mediator. Let’s put the pressure on the government to “Canada Up” and get the schools open on time, one way or the other.